Flying the (Orthodox) friendly skies


A couple weeks ago, the Scourge featured a post about the repressive idiocies of the burqa, et al. In today’s contentious political environment where attacking Muslims has become a national sport based on fear and stupidity, it could be seen that the Scourge was hopping on the bandwagon and picking up a rather large drum. Not so, as evidenced by this week’s featured article, wherein an 81 year-old woman has called “bullshit” on Orthodox Jewry’s equally misogynistic views on women. The Scourge is nothing if not an equal-opportunity critic.

Renee Rabinowitz was catching a flight on Israel’s main carrier El Al when a Hasidic or Haredi man came to sit down next to her. After some back and forth between him and the flight attendant, the El Al employee asked Rabinowitz if she’d like a nicer seat up near the front of the plane. As she was moving, with the aid of her cane, the retired lawyer thought to ask if she was being relocated because the Hasidic man next to her was unhappy, and the flight attendant confirmed this was the case.

This isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened. Orthodox men regularly get their prayer shawls in a bunch over infractions against a Draconian moral code, even going so far as to cause a disturbance on a flight from Warsaw to Tel Aviv during which an Orthodox guy voiced his displeasure over the showing of the film “Truth” (about the unraveling of Mary Mapes and Dan Rather) because it was indecent. In the case with Rabinowitz, though, and others like it, the ultra-Orthodox don’t want to defile themselves by accidentally brushing against strange women on airplanes (or anywhere else for that matter), so they raise a stink until their demands are met and their sanctity preserved.

Guess what, dudes? You live in this fucking world, so either get hip to the reality that is modern life or stay in your communes and leave the rest of us alone.

As with all strict religious adherents, there’s a baseline of dualistic defilement in the approach of the Orthodox Jews to the world at large. Of course, this is a foregone conclusion in a religious identity based on being the chosen of God, those who have a special covenant with the one-and-only and who used this to wipe out thousands in their deadly march into the Promised Land. As soon as the concept of being “chosen” was adopted, that meant that there were “un-chosen,” and it’s easy to extend these categories not only to the outsider but to those we consider dangerous in our midst.

Naturally, women get the rap the world over, because men are at the helm of the world’s religions. In pre-patriarchal spiritualities (and even in the veiled references of today’s spiritually embarrassing traditions), the woman was portrayed as the world itself. The divine feminine is almost always the actual stuff of the planet – plants, water, rocks, the physical bodies of animals and even people. She is both the one who gives birth to all creation and then eradicates it when the time is right. And then she does it all again. It’s a classic view.

Now, along come the male-dominated faiths and what’s the first thing they do? Well, in the case of ancient Judaism, they cut down the sacred trees of the goddess and hacked up or enslaved their followers. Christianity pursued the devotees of the goddess, male and female, slaughtered them and smashed the images of the most revered goddess in the Roman age, Cybele. (The Scourge has taken multiple trips to the Vatican museum, and after examining every shard of pottery he could find, he only saw one image of the “Great Mother” of Rome shoved up behind a stairway. Grudges die hard in the Eternal City.) In Islam…well, refer to the last paragraph of this post. Hinduism’s men worship goddesses and then rape women. There has been no female Dalai Lama yet, and on it goes.

What do all these seemingly disparate philosophies share? A disdain for the world. There’s something wrong with it. It’s fallen, or non-Edenic, or a trap, or just an illusion to be avoided.  This place is a dump, because this place, with all its glories and horrors, is decidedly female.

Men continue to poison the well of our spiritual yearning, adopting escapist, world-negating theologies wherein, if you’re really, really good, a male god will reward you with heaven once you’re dead. But it’s not enough that these holy men stay pressed between the dry pages of self-righteous texts; they take their shit on the road and want to remake the world in their image. While today it’s easy to see Muslims as grotesque Jehovah’s Witnesses who blow us up instead of knocking on our doors with vacant-eyed stares and copies of the Watchtower, make no mistake about it: all these faiths are, subconsciously or not, telling us to convert to their ways. If not, they wouldn’t cause stinks on public airplanes, hold prayer vigils on the steps of state Capitols or declare all non-procreative sex a hindrance to true spirituality.

In their desperate attempts to escape the messy and rapturous embrace of the world, the orthodox of all faiths will forever miss the wisdom that lies deep in the arms of modern-day existence – all things, as they are, are holy. Until they get that, there’s going to be a lot of drama involving airplanes.

Until next Sunday… the heretic’s day.

In other news of the faithful:

Iran’s hardline press raises $600,000 to add to the bounty on writer Salman Rushdie’s head. I guess lifting the sanctions was good for Iran’s economy!

Even though riding bikes makes Allah angry, a group of Palestinian women saddle-up.

Witch hunts aren’t just relegated to Salem (or Donald Trump, for that matter). People are still blaming and then killing suspected women of witchcraft in rural India – especially when said women have land their male relatives want.

Hillary Clinton declares herself a person of faith. Because, you know, believing in a vindictive sky god means you can run a country.

The archbishop of St. Louis has urged congregants to think twice before getting involved in the Girl Scouts because of the organization’s stances on transgender and gay issues. In an open letter to the diocese, he even told people to think twice before buying Girl Scout cookies. Shit just got real. (If you’d like to write to or call the archdiocese and tell them what you think of they’re ridiculous stance, click here.)

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